29 April 2018

Easy add-on Projects for Spectrum ZX81 & ACE (Redux): Part 2

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After several weeks of waiting the Decoder Board PCBs arrived just in time for a bit weekend assembly and testing. I'd ordered the other components required for the build a couple of weeks ago and had them laying around in anticipation.

Aside from the various electronics, I decided to use a ZX81XT extender board purchased some time ago from Sell My Retro. The ZX81XT is perfect for prototyping or just for swapping various project boards in and out without the need for multiple edge connectors.

ZX81XT extender and Easy Add-On Decoder Board PCBs

As my decoder board at its core is a part for part update on the original design as presented in the 'Easy add-on Projects for Spectrum ZX81 & ACE' book, I pretty much followed the general assembly instructions given in the text. This process was exceedingly helpful during the various testing phases outlined during the build procedure.

The major update in my version of the decoder board is the substitution of through hole components for SMD parts. Being the first time I've willingly used SMD parts I was expecting quite a challenge. The good news for anybody else finding themselves slightly apprehensive of incorporating SMD components into projects is that it's actually quite easy to use them. The most problematic parts I found to be the tiny resistors and capacitors. I managed to loose a couple of the minuscule resistors by simply dropping them into someplace never to be found again. Dealing with and soldering of the SMD ICs in comparison was all very straight forward.

Fully Built Decoder Board Ready for Testing

After about an hour and a half I had the decoder assembled ready for some final testing. This is where I hit a slight snag. The first project in the book, 'Pulse Detector' serves as the final assembly test for the board. Unfortunately I neglected to order the ICs required for the test project.

I figured it should be possible to conduct some testing with a simple 555 timer circuit. I did however wish to ensure that what ever it was I built would be genuine test of the decoder. Luckily the book had such a 555 timer circuit I could easily modify, 'Project 5, Beeper'. Simply removing the Beeper part of the circuit (which I also had no components for) and replacing it with an LED would prove the board worked.

LED 555 Test Circuit Connected and Working on a Spectrum Omni.

I first tested the Decoder Board on a ZX81. This requires entering a program listing appearing in the books appendix. The ZX81 has no built in BASIC commands to read or write to expansion BUS, the programs listed in the book addressed this absence. After entering an running the application I successfully blinked an LED, a positive right of passage for any micro controlled project. I then moved the decoder board across to my recently acquired ZX Spectrum Omni (deserving of it's own blog entry sometime soon). Again the LED blinked as expected.

All in all everything has worked as expected, time to pick up some extra electronics and build some of the books proper projects.

See more entries for this project: ForwardPart 1Part 2Part 3

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